This morning at the BBC, there was a mockup of the Stephen Nolan Show with the man himself. I don’t like Stephen Nolan ever since he turned a real issue into a circus (the social worker-mandated imprisonment of young men and women with learning difficulties at Muckamore Hospital with no hope of parole). He’s a shock jock. And for that base entertainment, I reserve the right to despise him. I felt comfortable when answering his oddly phrased question though, maybe because I had rehearsed it a hundred times before in front of government committees, elected representatives, network members, senior people in both public, private and academic institutions and a few times, I suppose, in the car.
In the afternoon, I attended a Creative Industries Strategy Session hosted by Belfast City Council. I think we hit on a few killer ideas which, sorry to say, I’m not going to repeat here. I think it’s fair to say that a few of the individuals knocked it out of the park. And, frankly, I’m going to contrive to work with them again soon.
It’s worth noting that Momentum doesn’t send me to these things because they’re paid to. Because, frankly, we’re not. Digital Circle, as a separate project, ended last September and we’ve kept it going over the last 9 months by delivering other projects for other organisations and doing Digital Circle in our ‘spare time’.
While we all know that Digital Content, Software and Digital Hybrids are probably one of the only rapidly growing sectors, government has been slow to react. Demanding document after document, trying to secure promises that everything will work out fine (from people who can only guarantee their own performance) and generally giving every indication that this industry is beneath even contempt.
A local entrepreneur (originally from Germany) said that support in Germany is a lot better for digital content and hybrid companies. I know the supports available in Sweden, France and Norway are much better. When Denmark wanted to create a digital media cluster, they invested €9 million. When Northern Ireland wanted to do it, they invested £235,000 with an industry investment of £265,000. GAP supports are still overly complicated. Most of the other supports (other than Trade Dept) are complicated, unwieldy and designed for the industrial revolution. Even the Creative Industries Innovation Fund has a form that was designed by sadists and a process that is more obfuscatory than anything I have ever encountered. And I’ve worked with big corporations (Apple, NBC Universal). In the face of this evidence it would seem that digital media is not actually a priority in Northern Ireland (unlike every other country, region, republic, democracy and municipality in the world) and I would have to say they are right.
The Media Innovation Awards are not a big thing in the real scheme of things. They’re a first step for the BBC to become engaged with the local industry. The money that’s going into this scheme is coming from InvestNI and DCAL and it’s all about teasing the BBC out of the hole they have dug for themselves in Northern Ireland with a few decades of smug isolationism. The interesting things will be the second and third steps. The possibility of a “Salford” type development in Belfast with the BBC as an anchor tenant not just as a large name in the midst but as an active participant. The potential access to the BBC Archive to re-invent old things as new. The development of new “digital first” ideas. All of this is on the table.
Despite all of this. Maybe even because of all of this, I’m determined to work to change things. I will not let the Vogons get me down.